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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Authority Figures: Pastors

     Coming up the high steps in a single file, the right foot waiting for the left on each step before moving on, my Sunday School classmates and I climbed our way into the sanctuary. Most of us were three years old, making our legs pretty short for all of those steps. The door at the top was already open because our teacher had gone ahead of us to make sure the front row was cleared for her class. Crossing the threshold into the sanctuary our feet sank into carpet and we turned to the left. Of course, our gaze also turned to the left and there he was. Standing tall behind the wooden pulpit, the pastor was wearing a black robe, only his white shirt collar and knot at the top of his tie showed us what he might have under those heavy folds. Lifting our stare up a bit we smiled back at his wide grin. It was then I noticed his white hair and thought he is probably the same age as God. Our teacher hurried us over to the pew, instructing us to quietly slide back against the shiny wooden backrest. As I did so, I noticed my little legs flipping straight out in front of me and I didn’t like it. I wanted to swing my legs off the edge of the pew so I scooted myself easily to the edge of the smooth bench.

     I think we had to be in the front row because we couldn’t read. When the organ began, everyone else held up books that they took from the back of the pew in front of their row. There was no row in front of us and, therefore, no books for us. But, it didn’t matter because they were singing my favorite hymn, Number 1 in the thick book that didn’t have a single picture in it. I sang with my whole heart and loudest volume each time the song got to the line I knew, “Ho - ly, Ho - ly, Ho - o- ly. Lord God the Mighty*.” Each time I opened my mouth to sing my line, I looked up to see if the pastor was watching me. He was, with that beautiful smile that told me it was okay I didn’t know the rest of the song yet.

     “Thank you, Sojourner, for that first memory of church,” the pastor said to the circle of kids in the “Fireside Room (which BTW had no fireplace).” It was the first after-school meeting of our confirmation class and everyone was supposed to answer his questions so he could get to know us. He was not the same pastor as the one in my shared memory; that one had probably retired. I was 11 years old and my sister was 13. She smiled at me and I just knew what she was thinking, how in the world can you remember all this stuff? I have no idea what my first memory of church was. She was not alone but other questions more easily answered were to follow.

     Throughout the weeks of meeting with the pastor, I came to think of him as a friend and not someone to be feared. Before Confirmation Class, I figured the pastor was someone like the school Principal. You never saw him unless you were in trouble for misbehaving. I enjoyed learning the things he told us each week and my hunger for the Bible grew. Too often, though, the questions his lectures provoked had nothing at all to do with the subject at hand so I completed the course with a lot more questions needing answers.

     I didn’t think that this quest for answers would really be any problem; I had friends who went to other churches. Therefore, they had other pastors who might just have some of the answers. I had been allowed to do the Confirmation Class a little early so I could be with my sister, which meant that my own friend still had Confirmation Classes ahead of them. I would just join their class!

Related PostLife 101: Truth  Sojourner, Sunday School, and the Birthday cake… in case you missed this one!

          * The words should be "Lord God Almighty" but this is how it sounds to a 3-year-old!

****Authority Figures: Pastors, Scene 2… Coming Tomorrow

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